KAOS! The word is definitely appropriate, but in a very good way. Whenever you are working with children, some chaos will arise, regardless of how well you are prepared. But, just like anything with kids, even the most unorganized moments usually end in laughter and smiles. This is no different…

KAOS! is actually an acronym for our unique offshoot paddling program: Kids Are OuttaSight! KAOS! came into being following an article in our local paper outlining what was then the newest chapter of Team River Runner – the Susquehanna Valley chapter – and how we were serving Veterans in our community. Not long afterward, I received an email from an organization in Lancaster, PA called VisionCorps asking if we might be able to help with a summer program for their kids and maybe teach them how to kayak.

Disabled Veterans teaching blind and visually-impaired (VI) children how to kayak…what could go wrong?

What we discovered was that our Veterans stepped up and helped these kids and their parents learn the basics of safe river kayaking, guiding a blind/VI paddler on a gentle river with three easy class 1 rapids, and having fun with the kids at the Explorer’s Picnic afterward. Not to mention that the night before the river trip the area received significant rains that raised the water level by over a foot!  Joe Mornini, TRR Executive Director and resident paddle guru, asked me afterward if it was a success. Based on the smiles, laughter, high-fives, and giggling that went on that day, the answer is undeniably YES! And the kids were laughing and having fun, too…

You see, Veterans sign up to serve their Country as a member of the Armed Forces. After we separate from the Military, most of us still have a gnawing need to serve – the trick is to find a new way to do so. KAOS! is one way our chapter’s Vets are able to serve their community, giving back a little bit as a way of showing their thanks for the support their community has given them.

Joe knows this very clearly. In fact, he has challenged us to stand this program up nationally as a way for us to continue serving. And that is what we have done. This week, we have gone live with the KAOS Resources Page on our website: https://svtrr.org/KAOS_resources. This site is designed to help other Team River Runner chapters to stand-up their own KAOS! program. We have provided you with a basic set of tools, a lesson plan, videos, even a cool logo you can use to publicize your program.

About that cool logo… One of our KAOS alums, Leiana S. (mom’s cool with us sharing this, so don’t worry), came to our first KAOS meeting this winter and helped design a logo. I’ve included a photo of her and her original artwork above. Leiana is an amazing child…and pretty typical of the kind of kid you meet along the way doing a program like this. Watching her and her dad paddling down the river, running (for her) huge rapids while giggling like the schoolgirl she fueled my need to hold this event again and again! You can’t watch that and not be moved to share this experience with others.

So, our challenge to you is this: accept the challenge to add a little KAOS! to your world. Find a group of people willing to help you stand up your own KAOS! program and share your stories with the rest of us at Team River Runner. And remember the KAOS! motto:

If you’re not smiling, you’re doing it wrong!